The Alternative DK manifesto: 17 Copenhagen goals for sustainable development

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There is now less than 2 weeks till the local elections in Denmark on the 21st of November. Niko Grünfeld is the leading candidate for The Alternative and running for one of the 7 Copenhagen Major positions. Together with the other candidates and in collaboration with the city's citizens, The Alternative has developed their political program as a manifesto - 17 goals - aligned with the UN 17 global sustainable development goals - for a more sustainable Copenhagen.

The goals are presented below but do also check out the manifesto in its whole here as includes several concrete proposals for each of the 17 goals.  

The political program you are about to read is the result of a unique experiment in politics and democracy. Guided by our conviction that the more we are the more we know, we have invited hundreds of Copenhageners to our so-called “political laboratories” and asked them to share their ideas about what a sustainable city would look like. We are delighted to present here what we, together, have come to in the course of those discussions.

In The Alternative, we are working to achieve a sustainable society. The world is in dire need of countries and cities which take the sustainability transition seriously. That is the direction the future is headed, and our ambition is no less than building a city that is at the forefront of that transition.

With the United Nations taking the lead, the world has set its sustainable development goals up until 2030. The 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) make up the most ambitious transformation plan the world has ever seen. And if it’s up to us, The Alternative in Copenhagen, we should take inspiration from that level of ambition, and do everything we can to live up to those goals – at the international, national and local level alike.

Our city has a unique basis to build upon. It’s easy to see why cities all over the world look to Copenhagen when they search for their formula of sustainable urban development. That is something we must be proud of, but at the same time we must also feel an obligation. That’s why we believe that Copenhagen should use its unique platform to go even further and with ever higher ambitions.

If we keep setting the bar high, other cities will follow suit - as they’ve done in the past – to the bene t of city dwellers all over the world. In short, The Alternative’s objective is to make Copenhagen not only the best city in the world, but also the best city for the world.

Inspired by the UN, we have therefore set our own 17 goals for a sustainable Copenhagen. Goals that we want to achieve by 2030 at the latest. We call them the Copenhagen Goals, and together they make up both a vision and a long-term course for the future’s sustainable Copenhagen.


A city of decent and meaningful lives

Copenhagen must be a leader in social sustainability. No one should live in poverty, and social benefit schemes must become much more efficient, more flexible and better tailored for individual needs. We are seeking to establish Copenhagen as the city of decent and meaningful lives and communities.


A city of eco-friendly and healthy foods for everyone

Global food production has a massive environmental impact. It is the No. 1 driver of CO2 emissions, deforestation and waste of resources. At the same time diets are directly linked to potential health problems. If we change the ways we produce and consume food, we can decrease our collective carbon footprint and promote individual health.


A city of quality life and healthy living in all life phases

Many Copenhageners can live good and fulfilling lives. Still, we must remember that a large number of our fellow citizens are in need of help and support for various reasons. Young families experience increasing hardships with time management. Others, including both the young and the elderly, struggle with stress, loneliness, anxiety, failure to thrive, and financial difficulties. We want to change that.


A city of free and creative public schools

Teachers are bound today by strict documentation requirements, prescribed teaching methods and bureaucratic target management. Resources are not sufficient and many children get stressed by going to school. Public schools are to prepare our children for a future that requires lifelong curiosity, education and creativity. Therefore we have to invest heavily in public schooling and set it free.


A city of equality and dignity for everyone

We maintain a culture where the rules of the game are not the same for everyone. Some are expected to behave in certain ways while quite the opposite is expected of others. Applied norms can be limiting due to factors that are not up to us, such as gender and looks. The Alternative seeks a culture change which aims to achieve real equality between the sexes as well as for the city’s various minority groups. With specific measures, we wish to set the individual free and ensure maximum diversity in our community so that we can draw upon everyone’s unique potential and creative spirit.


A city of clean water, soil and marine environment

There are several sources of pollution in Copenhagen that endanger the ground water and the aquatic environment. It’s crucial that the quality of water is improved and stewarded for the benefit of today’s Copenhageners and their descendants.


A city of green energy and clean air

Copenhagen’s current climate action plan is ambitious but it is mostly based on the conversion of coal-fired power stations to biomass plants, and the installation of windmills. At the same time we are lagging behind when it comes to the transport sector. It is crucial that we set municipal goals and subgoals and introduce concrete measures in order to become zero-carbon as soon as possible.


A city of work-life balance

All too many must burn the candle at both ends just to make ends meet. All too many are stressed out, anxious and develop stress-related diseases. Family bonds can break, children can be neglected and everyday pleasures can go fully lost on us unless we restore the balance between the private and the professional spheres. The Alternative wants to replace the current competition-culture with a balance-culture in which everyone is regarded as valuable, everyone can realize their potential and have the opportunity to enter into meaningful community relations.


A city bursting with entrepreneurship

Small and midsize businesses employ a huge amount of people, at times having accounted for as much as 50 % of Denmark’s net job growth. What’s more, there is a broad consensus that creativity, inventiveness and social entrepreneurship will be all-defining factors in the future’s economy. Therefore, it is very reasonable to invest in both the community’s and the individual’s creative powers in public schools, higher education and working life alike. The Alternative will seek to establish Copenhagen as the best city for entrepreneurs and sustainable enterprises.


A city with a place for everybody

Urban development and homebuilding in Copenhagen is driven by strict commercial interests which don’t take environmental and social challenges into account. The city badly needs new homes that are affordable for young generations, students, law and middle income people and singles. Copenhagen must be a city for all, rather than for the few.


A city of diverse cultural life

Culture is for everybody. A rich and lively cultural life is key to self-understanding, intellectual outlook and historical memory. We seek to prioritize culture and the arts in the public sphere. Copenhagen is to become a progressive cultural city for all its inhabitants and visitors.


A city of ethical consumption and circular economy

Living up to Denmark’s commitments in the Paris Climate Agreement requires that by 2050 Copenhagen’s CO2 emissions be reduced from approx. 19 tons to 2 tons. That’s a massive challenge. Both on the political and the administrative levels we must push for a system that - in addition to the one-dimensional economic bottom line - also measures the green and the social bottom lines (Triple Bottom Line).


A city leading in climate solutions

The climate will change significantly in the near future with extreme weather events, water level and temperature rises becoming ever more frequent. This creates manifold challenges for current and future generations of Copenhageners. It will only get more expensive if we put o making our city climate resilient. Copenhagen must not only be prepared for future climate events but it must also become a global knowledge center of the green transition.


A city of recreational waters

Water is the primary precondition for life and a key factor determining the quality of life in cities. Unfortunately, it is also the resource most susceptible to the impacts of urbanization. We must cherish and safeguard our water resources and the city’s blue oases, such as the harbour baths and spas.


A city of diverse urban nature

Copenhagen does not have much access to nature, especially wild nature. Biodiversity, natural environments and wildlife are increasingly threatened in Denmark. Therefore, we must be utterly committed to safeguard what we have and boost biodiversity using a range of environmental protection measures.


A city of new political culture

Danish democracy is under a lot of strain. We need a new political culture. The credibility of the political class is at a low point. Voters’ turnout at the latest local elections was just 61,2%. This is a problem that we must to tackle together.


The best city for the world

Copenhagen and the surrounding municipalities compete for workplaces and socioeconomically advantaged citizens. This short-sighted competition across municipality borders obliterates the manifold advantages of cooperation. Copenhagen Goal 17 is about a broad political, technological and economic cooperation across municipal, regional and national boundaries where city councils, regional councils, enterprises, organizations and citizens take ownership of set objectives and work together to achieve them.